Thursday, November 9, 2017

Spotlight on Somatics: Bartenieff Fundamentals

Bartenieff Fundamentals is a form of Laban Movement Analysis created by Irmgard Bartenieff. It utilizes principles of breath, core support, dynamic alignment and spatial intent. Emory Professor Sally Radell received her Master’s Degree from Ohio State University in choreography and Labanotation, in addition to teaching several courses here each semester that utilize somatic practices like this and many others. She speaks on her experience below.

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity

When were you first introduced to Bartenieff Fundamentals?

I was first introduced to the Bartenieff Fundamentals as a graduate student in dance at The Ohio State University. All graduate students were required to take several courses in the work. I must admit that I did not really understand the significance of the work at the time and how it could really help me connect and integrate my movement patterns. I was not a diligent student of this material because it was too subtle for me to really wrap my brain around it. Then, after I finished the courses, I got injured and had a hard time getting better. My teachers referred me back to the Bartenieff work and after practicing it a bit I felt first-hand how the movement helped my body rebuild healthy movement habits that had been disturbed from my injury. I also saw how the work helped me connect my body up and move forward technically. After that I spent several semesters doing independent study with my teachers on Fundamentals and have been a convert ever since.

What are the main components of this practice and how are they taught?

The main components of the form are body connectivity, breath support, grounding, the developmental progression of movement in infancy and toddler-hood, intent and complexity of movement. The form is about revisiting the early connections we make in our bodies as infants (head – tail, connection to center, understanding that all parts are connected, etc.) and as we review this material we can begin to develop a deeper understanding how our body moves, release unproductive habits, understand how breath supports our movement, the clear sequencing of movement to create high levels of efficiency, etc. The form can be taught one on one or in a group. 

Why do you think this is an important somatic practice to teach students?

This is a critical somatic form to teach students because it is accessible, needs no props, and builds upon the basic movement patterning we discover as children. It covers a lot of ground (core support, connectivity, intent, sequencing, breath support) and helps students learn how to integrate movement in their body for higher levels of efficiency and functioning in everything they do. Also, the exercises feel good to perform and fairly quickly one can feel changes in their body if they practice the material mindfully.

How can this practice help dancers in and out of the studio and/or how has this practice helped you?

This material has helped me understand movement connections as a dancer and teacher, and I have witnessed how it accelerates the acquisition of technical skills in dancers. It has helped me move in a more integrated way. It has also helped me work through injuries and the retraining that is necessary. Also, this material applies to all physical movement, not just dance, so it has wide application.

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